If you’ve never before heard of Whitehaven beach, here’s the thing to know: It’s been named The Best Beach in The South Pacific and in 2013 was named the third most beautiful beach in the world.
Being Australia’s most photographed beach it’s easy to see why, with the swirling white silica sands, that change their formation with each tide.
I can tell you from experience however, that Whitehaven, and the Whitsundays in general look immensely different during a weekend void of sun and full of rain.
I’ll never forget standing on the shore of Whitehaven, in near torrential rains sporting a rain soaked red, white and blue, tie-dyed night shirt.
Why I thought that would be a good thing to wear that over my bathing suit, I don’t remember. Most likely I just didn’t feel like squeezing my wet body into a stinger suit, although that probably would have weighed considerably less than an oversized and saturated t-shirt.
My weekend began on Airlie beach, where I stayed for one night at Base hostel and rejoiced when I found out we had our own private bathroom and a shower with hot water!
Not that it really mattered, it turns out I could have showered outside had I wanted to, seeing that it would end up raining almost constantly the entire weekend.
Anyways, Base was clean, full of backpackers aka interesting people and like any really good hostel, had it’s own bar on premises.
Airlie, as I knew it for just one day and night was basically a strip, a lagoon, a beach with a sign warning against stingers that totally put me off swimming there, and walkway to the pier.
With a stroll down the main street, or in my case a mad dash to find shelter from an unrelenting downpour, you’ll find a few bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, some very convenient convenient stores and of course plenty of places to book tours.
I had previously booked two nights on a catamaran, which would take me around the Whitsundays, stopping to check out some snorkel spots and beaches.
I’ve always loved boat tours and have done day tours pretty much every time I’ve visited the U.S. Virgin Islands, but this would be the first time I’d slept on a boat.
I wasn’t worried about sea sickness, I’d never had it before, but I’d also never been below deck of a moving catamaran. I surpassed the meds anyways and opted for goon (boxed wine) and beers, as did everyone else on board.
Pretty much everyone on the boat were fellow Uni students, besides one French couple and their daughter, that poor unsuspecting family.
The boat we boarded on Friday was called Wings 3 and would be 2 days and 2 nights of perpetually wet feet but a great adventure none the less.
The crew were amazing, and made a potential disaster of a weekend a great first introduction to The Great Barrier Reef for me. I’m pretty sure everyone on that boat, besides maybe the French family, would do the whole thing over again.
The crew was good at informing us about our surroundings and the things we saw below the water, they were also funny, very hospitable and great cooks.
The first time we snorkeled off the boat was somewhere on The Reef, although I don’t remember exactly where we were.
I remember gliding over areas of bleached coral and remembering the differences in the reef from the very first time and the last time I had snorkeled in the Caribbean. This made me think about how much all parts of the earth have changed just during my lifetime, and how lucky I am to have seen The Great Barrier Reef, even as it seems to be slipping out of our hands.
I wasn’t lucky enough to see any reef sharks but was able to follow a Green Sea turtle around for a while, as it moseyed around the reef.
Floating above the turtle, the current rocked me slowly back and fourth in my stinger suit. For a moment I contemplated how gentle yet wild of a place this part of the ocean is.
On one hand you have a baked sea turtle taking it’s sweet old time, just going about its day. On the other hand a tiny transparent jellyfish known here as an Irukandji or the bigger Box Jelly is capable of laying a grown man out in seconds and could be lulled into my uncovered hand by that same gentle current at any moment.
November – May is stinger season here and there were plenty of warnings about it while I was here in March. I’d be lying if I said Box Jellies hadn’t irrationally haunted my nightmares long before I had any solid plans to come to Australia.
Luckily enough, I survived my time at the Whitsundays and would leave only with a need for some sun and a decent shower.
Tea and Biscuits were served each time we came in from the water and I think this is where my love for tea and biscuits actually developed.
There’s nothing like coming in from the ocean and the rain to a hot cup of tea before an afternoon of dinner and binge drinking.
The very act of residing on a boat for a weekend was an adventure itself. I remember having to pee while we were moving, I went below deck only to be jostled around so violently, I couldn’t keep my feet on the floor for more than a few seconds at a time. Not to mention I got a brief taste of the hell that seasickness would have been early on in the trip and immediately banned myself from being inside at all while we were moving.
It’s better to be outside anyways, even with a sky of solid clouds, this part of the world is something you’re not going to want to take your eyes off of.
There’s something about being at sea that always completely takes over my mind, before I know it I’m deeply contemplating the very meaning of life and am half way through writing a letter to my mom explaining that I’ve decided to quit school and live the rest of my days out at sea.
The sky was clear for one unbelievable night of star gazing. Really, we had all gone up to the roof to hangout and play drinking games. What ended up happening was all of us, mostly all American college students, staring speechlessly up at a sky full of stars.
These are the kind of stars I’d only seen in pictures. You just don’t see them in the City, surrounded by lights and noise. Out in the ocean in the middle of the Whitsundays we were shrouded in a darkness so complete it allowed us to see more than the light of the city could ever offer.
This led to some more deep thinking and shared concerns on what it would be like when we all finally had to return to real life back in The States.
On Saturday we stopped off at Whitehaven and The Whitsunday Islands National Park. This is the portion that you’re most likely to see if you Google Whitsunday Islands or The Whitsundays.
Our travel agent back at Gold Coast had pointed out that part of Pirates of The Caribbean was set in the Whitsundays and god I wish I had seen it as it had appeared in the movie. Sometimes I think back to it and how unlucky I had to have been to get such a shitty weekend for this trip, which I had been told, was just after the end of the rainy season.
Then again I have to acknowledge just how lucky I am to have even been able to step foot in such a beautiful part of the world, and then there’s that stubborn part of me that vows to go back.
Sadly, on Sunday I was dropped off at the pier in Arlie and shooed off the boat back onto the solid main land, which all of the sudden wouldn’t stop moving beneath my feet and had me feeling sicker than I had all weekend.
Avoiding floods our driver drove us back to The Whitsunday’s tiny little airport and we were whisked off to our temporary yet more permanent home in Broadbeach where I took the best shower of my life.
If there’s one piece of advice I can leave with anyone planning on taking a Whitsunday weekend boat trip, it’s this: Don’t expect a real shower, and definitely DO NOT skip that last shower the morning before you depart.
Also, don’t underestimate how much goon you will need for the weekend.
Have you ever traveled to a gorgeous destination only to be plagued by rain or seasickness?
Sadly, the rain had me a little hesitant to take out my camera during the trip and I ended up with almost no photos from my weekend In The Whitsundays. The stunning feature image I used for this post was found in a Lonely Planet Article and is by Yoshio Tomii/ Getty Images.
If visiting The Whitsunday Islands is a dream of yours, which it definitely should be, or if you’ve already booked your tickets, which you definitely should have check out these sources to learn more about things to do there: